UN rights chief spotlights troubling developments in Ethiopia Somalia, Sudan

11 May 2006 – Ethiopia is holding opposition figures under laws that may violate its constitution, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today.
Just back from a two-week mission to the Horn of Africa, she told reporters at the UN complex in Geneva that in Ethiopia, thousands of people were imprisoned after events following last year’s elections year. Of these just over 100 remained, comprising elected officials, journalists and other members of civil society charged with genocide and treason.
Under the Ethiopian Code of Criminal Procedure, the prisoners could not get bail for these serious offences. Ms. Arbour said this called into question whether the Code was in conformity with the Ethiopian Constitution which provides for the right to bail. The Constitution also provides that bail could be denied in exceptional circumstances by a court, but these defendants had not had access to a court, she noted.
“I have urged the Prosecutor to take another look at the evidence in an effort to see whether it would be feasible in some, if not in all cases, to reduce the charges so as to make them bailable,” she said.
The elected members of parliament were not likely to be able to take up their seats and could remain in custody for a very long period of time, she said. “The reality of this is that it has become a metaphor for the shrinking space for civil society and debate in a country where there were hopes that democracy was going to be flourishing.”
Ms. Arbour noted that the Ethiopian Government had been accommodating in giving her access to the Addis Ababa prison where she met privately with several of the opposition leaders in detention.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at11:47 PM

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